By Tina Dubois
We had the opportunity of getting a sneak peek at Stem footwear during their pre-production development. Now that their development is complete and the first pairs of production shoes are rolling out, we’ve been given the opportunity to review the first line-up of Stem footwear’s Women’s Primal Origins shoes. These are shoes that were worth the wait! They are an incredibly comfortable, casual lace-up shoe with great ground feel.
Stem footwear is amazingly comfortable. All the materials on the inside of the shoe are incredibly soft. The inside seams are flat and unobtrusive. The biggest seam attaches the tongue to the inside of the upper but it is placed in a position where you can hardly feel it against your feet because it’s in the crease created when you move your toes upward. They can easily and comfortably be worn with or without socks.
These shoes are wonderfully wide. They have plenty of wiggle room in the toe box for toes to move and lots of room for the natural movement of your metatarsal bones to splay. They are a bit narrower in the midfoot but it keeps the shoe in place. The laces allow for a custom fit for narrow, average, to wide feet.
The sole is a 7.5 mm air-injected rubber that is phenomenally flexible. Although thicker than some minimalist shoe outsoles, the material used and the design in the rubber easily allows it to contour around even small rocks. I can feel that the stack height on these is somewhat higher than I’m used to, but only for the first 5 minutes or so of wear. They feel a little unstable for the first few minutes but I do get used to it shortly.
Each women’s size 9 shoe weighs 6 ¼ ounces or 177 grams. These aren’t the lightest minimalist footwear we’ve tested but are well within the range of acceptable for lightweight. Even though most of the weight is in the outsole, I don’t feel the weight of them while walking because of the extended length design of the laces.
There is no support included in Stem footwear. This company understands foot shape and foot movement. There is no insole included in Stem footwear either, so there is no added height in the shoe from the inside.
The barefoot feel of these is awesome. Despite the thickness of the outsole, I can still feel even small rocks. Ground contours are easily transmitted through the material of the outsole.
For casual and urban use, there is more than enough grip. Even for dry light trails, these would provide adequate traction.
Much of the upper of Stem footwear is made of an air-mesh that is incredibly breathable. Where there is suede material covering the upper, air does not pass through, but along the sides and the top of the upper where the air-mesh is, plenty of air passes through, including light breezes.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The quality of the micro-suede, air-mesh, and air-injected rubber outsole appears to be of high quality. There was a problem with one of my review shoes with regards to manufacturing such that the piece of material that makes a loop for the laces to attach to the tongue came off the first time I put the shoes on. The stitches just gave way. The company has told me that this has occurred in very few pairs and they are working to resolve the issue for future production. The rest of the stitching appears flawless.
You can either have breathability or water resistance in shoes and in these, there is plenty of breathability. Water easily passes through the air-mesh upper so expect wet feet if you’re caught out in the rain.
I found that Stem footwear ran short for me. I usually fit a women’s size 8 but fit a size 9 in the Stems. The size 8 did not have enough length for me (although plenty of width). You might want to order a size up from your regular size.
A note from Stem about sizing, “Andrew Rademacher from Stem Footwear recommends that you go by their US size, not the EU size, because they are sized with US increments. Women’s sizes run different than Men’s. Women will need to go up 1/2 to a FULL size. Men will need to either not go up or go up 1/2 size. After you get your shoes you will see that they are designed for your toes to fit close to the end of the shoe (less than a thumbs width). If you are buying on the Stem Footwear Company website and can’t decide between two sizes, they recommend you buy both and return the one that doesn’t fit. You do have to pay for the return shipping, but you will be refunded fairly quickly and Allie and Andrew handle all the customer service so they are happy to help however they can.”
At $89.99 USD on the Stem footwear website, these shoes are comparably priced to many casual minimalist shoes currently on the market. For a durable, high-quality material shoe, this is a good value.
If you like natural colours, you’ll probably like the style of the Stems. There is great attention to detail in the production of these casual shoes and the rooty design on the outside of the upper is a beautiful example of that. For women, they currently come in all brown or a grey/pink upper with a brown outsole colourway.
There is no break-in period required for these shoes. I don’t suspect the upper is going to stretch so be sure they are a comfortable size as soon as you put them on.
Stems are machine washable on a gentle cycle and easily air dried. This is fantastic for a shoe that is so comfortable to wear without socks.
These shoes are easily worn with or without socks. On cooler days, I would recommend socks as air easily passes through the air-mesh upper.
These are excellent casual shoes for any urban or light trail adventure. They go well with pants or shorts in any natural shade.
I’ve been anxiously anticipating these shoes for some time now and they did not disappoint. They are incredibly comfortable with great ground feel. It’s exciting to me when the first offering of a new minimalist shoe company get all the important points right and Stem Footwear certainly did. If you’ve been waiting for a comfortable, wide, zero drop, flexible, casual lace-up shoe to hit the market for under $100, Stem footwear definitely fulfill those requirements. For more information, take a look at the Stem Footwear website.
As you read our reviews, please keep in mind that our reviewers review shoes in terms of their suitability for those looking to find the highest quality minimalist shoe products. All reviews are as factual as possible. In an effort to be transparent and ethical, we will point out any defects found, even if these do not affect the usability of the product. Not all defects will be present in final production shoes as we are sometimes offered “seconds” or pre-release products in an effort to provide you with reviews in a timely manor. In the event that serious issues are found with a review sample we will give every opportunity for the manufacturer to replace to explain the review samples before the final review is released. We never accept payments for reviews. We do not guarantee a good review for any products sent to us. We do not review products that do not claim to be minimalist or “barefoot like” unless we receive a significant number of requests from readers or listeners.
Should you have any questions about our review process or would like your product reviewed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us using our contact page.
Find “Living Barefoot” in iTunes and download it onto your iPod / iPhone or listen online
Stay updated by being notified when we release a new reviews. Subscribe Here.
As Living Barefoot continues to grow our costs keep increasing. In order to cover the many costs necessary to provide our readers and listeners with the great quality reviews and content on Living Barefoot we would like to request your help.
If you like what we are doing, we are asking for a tiny contribution to show your support. We guarantee you won’t notice the missing contribution, but if enough people participate, it can be a significant contribution to help continue to innovate and bring you great reviews, news, and personalities through the Living Barefoot Show.
What will we do in return? We’ll continue to offer you great free news, reviews, and guest interviews on our show. We will also decrease the amount of advertising on our site as subscriptions increase.
Donate as little as $1 monthly. The subscription will simply deduct $1 from your bank or credit card monthly. You can cancel the automatic withdrawal at any time. You won’t notice $1, but we will!